A rowing machine is one of the most efficient pieces of equipment you could have in a home gym — and can be enjoyable even if you’ve never actually been out on the water. Rowing machines offer a full-body, aerobic workout, and there’s a whole spectrum of options to consider buying at home, from basic to super fancy.
After you consider basic differences such as the type of resistance used, you can move on to more sophisticated features like app compatibility and aesthetic design. Some rowers generate resistance with actual water, others use air, hydraulics, or magnets. Each type of rowing machine on the market offers its own pros and cons:
- Pro: Less expensive
- Con: Noisier than other types
- Pro: More space-efficient
- Con: The rowing motion isn’t as smooth
Magnetic and water rowers
- Pro: Quietest and smoothest types
- Con: Usually more expensive
Every rower’s sensibilities will vary, but there’s undoubtedly a machine that can offer you the rowing experience you’re looking for. Here, we’ve selected our picks for all types of rowers, including those who might be totally new to the activity, space-conscious, well beyond beginner level, data-driven or looking for something pretty.
Note that some of these products may be sold out or back-ordered due to production and shipping issues. Prices can change frequently online, but the below prices are accurate at the time of publishing. We’ll update this list periodically.
Hydrow is a rowing machine, antagonist workout class, personal trainer and AR experience all rolled into one. It provides a near-silent, ultrasmooth row thanks to its nylon pull and electromagnetic resistance, while its display shows their strokes-per-minute rate, calories burned and heart rate. (Although Hydrow works with heart rate monitors, it isn’t compatible with wearables or smart watches.) If you make use of the display screen’s Live Outdoor Reality, you can feel as if you’re actually out on the water.
Aside from the rowing experience itself, Hydrow’s appeal comes from the variety of streamable class videos available through its class membership service. Rowing classes range in length from 10 to 45 minutes, while yoga, pilates and other mat workouts can run between five and 20 minutes. The only thing is, as you can see from the price, all of these additional features don’t exactly come cheap — not to mention that a one-year class membership ($456) and Hydrow’s vertical storage kit ($69) are both sold separately.
Members of Reddit’s fitness and home gym communities have been singing the praises of Concept2 in general and the brand’s Model D for a while now, and it’s fair to see why. At $900, it’s an investment piece that doesn’t feel like a splurge — and it helps that it’s designed to last. It’s durable, easy to maintain (its nickel-plated chain requires less frequent oiling than other rowing machines), and equipped with a smooth, quiet air-resistance flywheel.
With such a dependable construction, it’s the perfect pick for a lifelong rower. At the same time, it offers enough bells and whistles to be more than a utilitarian machine. Chief among these features is the performance monitor, which tracks calories burned, pace, speed, distance and watts, and offers five different display options, including games to make the workout more fun.
Sunny Health and Fitness
With magnetic resistance (of which it offers eight levels) and an LCD display that shows your time, count and calories, among other stats, Sunny’s rowing machine checks all the essential boxes. In other words, it’s nothing fancy. Some reviewers pointed out that its chain is pretty loud and its small display screen could be bigger and clearer.
It has more than enough, however, to make a beginner into a rowing devotee. For those hoping to store their rowing machine, it should be noted that, although this model is foldable, some Amazon reviewers say it can be difficult to break down.
At about 52 inches long, the Stamina Body 1050 rower is pocket-sized in comparison to the other machines on our list. But we’d argue that’s its biggest draw — if you’re an apartment dweller or someone who doesn’t have the space for more than a couple of hand weights at home, this should be your No. 1 pick.
And just because you’re sacrificing size doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on a solid workout: This chainless model offers a wider range of motion when rowing, and its hydraulic piston system can be adjusted with 12 levels of resistance. Meanwhile, its (admittedly pretty small) display monitors workout time, stroke count, calories burned, plus total number of accumulated strokes.
This rower lives up to its “natural” title with its solid wood design and water-based resistance, which allows for smoother strokes and a more realistic rowing experience. Plus, WaterRower is designed to be quieter than conventional rowers, as wood tends to absorb more sound than, say, metal.
As much as the WaterRower aims to create a realistic experience, you won’t miss out on your workout metrics, thanks to the performance monitor that tracks speed, intensity, time, distance, stroke rate and heart rate (if, that is, you buy WaterRower’s heart rate monitor kit as well). If you ask us, it’s easily the most aesthetically pleasing rower on this list. However, that sleek wood construction also means that, while it can be stored vertically, it cannot fold up to save space.
This rower from ProForm boasts Stamina’s compact foldability, as well as Hydrow’s high-tech perks (with a lower price tag). The rower comes free when you sign up for a three-year family membership to iFit Coach, at $39 per month, for a total of $1,403. iFit Coach is a tablet-enabled app with a vast library of workout videos and classes, plus helpful performance info like speed and heart rate, if you buy a separate iFit heart rate monitor ($52).
The rower itself is equipped with a secure tablet holder above its metric console. Speaking of metrics, ProForm logs distance, time, calories burned, strokes and resistance stats. With 24 levels of magnetic resistance and iFit’s various classes available, this rower is great for both beginners and more experienced rowers looking to level up.
Often mentioned in the same breath as the Concept2, this rower is similarly high-quality without being too expensive. Its 10 levels of air resistance allow for great variability and its heavily padded seat keep longer workouts comfortable, but the difference-maker with the Xebex’s air rower is the extent to which it monitors your performance and improvement as a rower.
For starters, it tracks your basic metrics like time, distance, strokes per minute, calories burned, watts, total strokes and heart rate (if you connect the rower to a heart rate monitor). But beyond those helpful stats, this rower also charts such measurements as average number of meters per stroke, average and max watts, max heart rate, and calories burned per hour. The Xebex makes it easy to stay up to date on your progress.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.